Ahhh, the sweet, familiar smell of your own agony. Or maybe it’s just the smell of your body must sinking into your parents couch. Because after all, you haven’t washed your hair or put on makeup in days. You’ve been scrolling endlessly through ads, applications, leads from friends and family, and job listings for positions that have already been filled, but haven’t been taken down. Your appearance and mental health are slowly deteriorating as you scroll, scroll, scroll, sending applications and attaching documents into the void. But it’s all for the hunt, right? Who needs to go outside and enjoy the sunshine when your legs are warmed and nestled under the heat of your laptop?
This, my friends, is what unemployment feels like — at least in its initial stages. Its symptoms include a lethal combination between aggressive self-promotion, coupled with the crippling fear of anyone knowing what you’re actually doing. For many, we call this period a professional “rock bottom.” It’s the chapter that you hope to skim past, because there’s no crucial plot-changing information — the part of life’s Terms and Conditions that you blindly agreed to, because you never actually considered that this would someday be something that would actually happen.
Well, guess what? It did. You’re here, and probably with multiple tabs open on various recruiter websites. You haven’t spoken to a human being in the face for days because you are trying to stay heavily focused on the full time job that is finding a job. It can feel like an endless circling of the drain, of trying and getting rejected or — much worse — never hearing back at all.
But trust me, You are not alone. There are countless others in your exact situation (a fact that I know doesn’t make you feel any better). But it is not the end of the world. Rather, this is an amazing opportunity for you to focus on your life beyond your career goals. It seems counter-productive, but when you choose to focus on your personal over professional wellness, then you’ll feel like time is a precious treasure, rather than a prison.
Here are some of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself that have nothing to do with job-hunting.
1. Connect with old friends. This may or may not be good advice. When I say “old friends,” I don’t mean show up to your high school boyfriend’s parents’ house to see if he’s still around, and make awkward catch-up conversations, only to find out that he’s married and successful. I mean send an e-mail to an old friend, a Facebook message even, to ask how they’ve been doing. Let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Sometimes, when we’re caught in the bubble of our job hunt, we forget there is a world happening around us that hasn’t stopped at all. It is very easy to forget about the people you spent so much time with years ago when you’re focusing on yourself. It may feel a little weird (especially if you’re like me and it’s been three years since you’ve seen most of these people in person), but trust me, it’s worth it when you need to feel more like a human being again. And no, liking their recent picture of their new baby isn’t enough. Take the time to say hello.
2. Read all those books you never finished because you were “too busy.” I think I have more bookmarks than necessary, which is why I think this opportunity is beneficial. Reading is one of the best ways to learn and stay entertained when it feels like the silence from your lack of callbacks is booming. When I was working my part-time gigs while in school, I never had time to finish the books that weren’t required for class. Savoring the time when you are pretty much forced to make headway on the books you’ve been neglecting is essential, because you don’t know when this time will come again.
3. Practice that new language. So many jobs require a mastery of Spanish (or at least proficiency), so depending on the language, it’s as much about sharpening your résumé as it is about doing something to enrich yourself personally. You may think you retained all of those language skills in high school, but trust me, you’ll want a refresher for when someone actually starts a conversation in another language with you. Putting basic programs like Duolingo on your phone and looking for language meetups in your area where, for the price of a drink or coffee, you can practice your skills with other adults, are both great places to start. (Okay, so this one KIND of is related to job hunting, but only in an ancillary manner. Learning a language is much more exciting than learning about “how to perfect your cover letter.”)
4. Get in shape. I used to complain all the time about not having time to work out because my job exhausted me. Well, now is the chance. Get out there, get on Pinterest, hit those wall sits, and use this time you’re not working to try and get fit! Trust me, some of the most challenging workouts I’ve done have been the 30-day arm-butt-leg-phalange-what-have-you challenges I find on someone’s fitspo board. There is literally no excuse to not take the time to exercise these days, and frankly, doing something where you can actively see the results of your work every day (when your many emails are going agonizingly unanswered) is great for your mental health. Set aside some time, figure out what your fitness goals are, and start working towards it as you would for the perfect job application. Gym memberships are not necessary anymore — all you need is access to Youtube or Pinterest, and you have an instant guidebook on how to be less lazy with this extra time.
These are just a few of the many ways you can keep your mind from stressing out about the job hunt while not wasting the days away on Indeed. At the end of the day, what matters is taking the time you have now to better yourself in ways beyond your LinkedIn skill set.
You may feel like the clock is running against you, when really, time is on your side if you make it work for you. Even if that means taking 20 minutes a day to get in full Shavasana, let this time serve you. After all, time is a much more precious resource than we want to believe it is, and this is one of the few opportunities of your life where you will have more of it than you need.
Savanna is a freelance writer in Northern California whose hobbies include all things theater- and dog- related. She hopes for a world where avocados will be included in the price of her entrée, and where there is a 12-step program for people who obsessively collect air miles.
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